|History of Political Philosophy
Political science seeks to describe, explain, and predict political phenomena. These questions must be settled empirically: by consulting history, observing differences between countries, taking polls, and so on. Political philosophy asks different questions, which it is less clear that we can settle empirically. Some of these questions are conceptual. What makes a particular form of human interaction political? Other questions are normative. What sort of government should we have? How should we, as individuals, relate to it?
This course surveys the major works of political philosophy of the 17thˆ19th centuries, by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau (in the social contract tradition), and by Hume, Bentham, and Mill (in the utilitarian tradition). To provide context and contrast, briefer readings will be drawn from Aristotle; Filmer (a critic of Hobbes in turn criticized by Locke); and Whewell, De Tocqueville, and Stephen (contemporaries of Mill).
The course will be more interpretive than many philosophy classes. Although we may hope to learn something about the questions that interest us, we will be discussing, in the first instance, the questions that interested the authors. Furthermore, our interpretations will have a different focus from courses on the same texts in other departments. There will be greater emphasis on normative foundations than on institutional design, and greater emphasis on the internal logical structure of the arguments than on their author‚s rhetoric or immediate political aims. For this reason, some experience with philosophical reasoning is essential.